Election Fraud: The Proper Response
March 9, 1993
Democracy means one-person, one-vote. Since vote-rigging and vote-buying are not consistent with this definition, they are condemned by true democrats.
Taiwan has only recently begun its struggle away from dictatorship toward a true democracy. During the transition period, we should not be surprised by vote-rigging and vote-buying. Although it is receiving greater publicity in the present than, say, four years ago; we can be well assured that the problem used to be more serious then it is today. Of course, this does not excuse today's guilty parties. Indeed, their crime is probably greater, since social attitudes toward the practice have changed considerably and rapidly.
In a true democracy, there is only one proper remedy for voting fraud besides severely punishing those found to be guilty. It is a totally new election. This means that all candidates -- even those who may have won by a very large margin -- must be declared ineligible for office until a new election is held. Why? Because the knowledge that an election will be rigged causes people to change their votes. Many people in Hualien must have known about or expected the vote-rigging and vote-buying. How would these people have voted if there was a totally fair election? No one knows.
In a rigged election, it cannot be assumed that a candidate who receives a large amount of votes deserves to be elected. Many of the people who voted for him may have done so because they believed that their candidate had no chance. Suppose that you think that because of vote-rigging, your favorite candidate does not have a chance. If there are two or more other candidates trying for the same office, you might vote for your second choice. Or, if someone offers to buy your vote, you might sell it, thinking that your vote is not worth anything to you.
It is impossible for anyone to know what people are thinking when they vote. Thus, the only fair way to deal with the situation in Hualien is to have a reelection involving all the candidates.
Admittedly, this is costly. But maintaining the standards of a true democracy is well worth the cost. It is a terrible precedent to allow politicians, in back rooms, to decide who will be declared a winner in the Hualien election, when we do not know for certain how voters would have voted.
Copyright © 1996 by James Patrick Gunning
J. Patrick Gunning
Professor of Economics/ College of Business
Feng Chia University
100 Wenhwa Rd, Taichung
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